Search This Blog

Friday, August 31, 2012

Chicago Skyline Porn

My parents are in town from San Francisco and last night we went on a boat and river tour in downtown along the Chicago River. I didn't plan the sunset to happen right when we go to the harbor, I'm not that organized ever.

This amazing photo is of the sun setting just south of the John Hancock - something my parents and I have never seen in our lives.

I hope you had at least one night like this during your summer!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

On searching for good Mexican food north of the border, why racial profiling should NOT be a part of making new friends and guacamole recipes from El Paso

Who am I to review restaurants? My palette is not so developed that I can decipher the unique flavorings that make up a mole sauce. I am not well versed in the culinary arts and magic of what goes on in a kitchen. And by no means have I eaten at a 5-star establishment more than once. So do I really know food? Or am I just another Yelpie yapping about customer services issues and the font on a menu?

I’ll own it, I’m just another yapper on Yelp joining the great food conversation exploding on the World Wide Web and today I’m writing about guacamole one of the best inventions to come out of Mexico. And specifically, I’d like to talk about the guacamole at Little Mexican Café on Church Street in Evanston. I really like the guacamole there and I’m going to spend this blog post writing about it.

Let’s start with the definition according to Wikipedia, Guacamole: is an avocado-based sauce that originated with the Aztecs in Mexico. In addition to its use in modern Mexican cuisine it has also become part of American cuisine as a dip, condiment and salad ingredient. It is traditionally made by mashing ripe avocados with a molcajete (mortar and pestle) with sea salt. Some recipes call for tomato, onion, lime juice, chili, yogurt and/or additional seasonings.

Now we’re all on the same page, right? Not really. Guacamole is like queso (another fabulous invention from Mexico that varies per household) in that it can be made many, many, many different ways. And thanks to a 10+ year stint living in El Paso (a city that shares a border and much of the population with Mexico) I was introduced to many different types of guacamole. The strangest? Three avocadoes, ½ cup milk, and lime juice in a blender. Strange but delicious!

When my family left El Paso for Evanston, we were all concerned about the pending lack of awesome Mexican food in our futures despite the fact that tons of Mexican Nationals live in Chicagoland. It’s not enough to just go to a Mexican restaurant and buy a dish. For us we would need home cooked Mexican food to fill the gap and for that we would need to make friends from Mexico! That would be hard because racial profiling should not be part of making friends. Not only is it disingenuous but using someone for their cooking potential is wrong and too complicated. What if all that time hanging out and getting to know one another, they finally invite you over for dinner and A. their cooking stinks or B. they cook you Chinese food? It’s too risky!

We would need to shelve looking for new friends from Mexico and we’d just have to eat out at Mexican food restaurants! Oh white people problems!

I would be remiss here not to throw a bone to our good friend Rick Bayless, who needs a bone thrown from Evanston Newbie like Lake Michigan needs water. But Rick has been good to us and we’ve eaten numerous, delicious, authentic Mexican meals at XOCO and we’re grateful. But as you know, I need a place I can walk to and I’m not walking to XOCO from Evanston!

You can imagine my happiness when I discovered Little Mexican Café on Church Street which is NOT very little but is VERY Mexican. The menu is traditional, the food has just the right amount of lard, and everyone who works there is speaking Spanish. The trifecta is working in favor of good Mexican food at Little Mexican Café and we can all walk there.

So besides the margaritas, the main item that I enjoy the most on the menu is the guacamole because it’s made to order in front of you from woman with a cart holding all kinds of ingredients. I can add anything I want to the recipe allowing me to revisit some of the homes of friends in El Paso all the way from Evanston. Granted there’s no blender or milk, I can make it extra spicy with lot of jalapenos or just with limes and tomatoes or really chunky with tons of onions. The avocadoes are always fresh and the serving size is huge. It’s a great deal and with a margarita can actually work as a meal. It’s so yummy that I’ve even eaten it out of the container with a spoon when I’ve run out of chips.

In honor of my old El Paso chums, I collected a few guacamole recipes on Facebook and will continue to update this post with them as they come in, see below.

So far, Little Mexican Café has done a great job filling the Mexican food gap in our lives and we’ve really only just started exploring. My older son loves the tamales from the Tamales Spaceship food truck and my husband liked the tacos from Taco Diablo. I’ll keep you posted of all the places we try but only if they are yummy – I only spread the good word on this blog.

If you’ve got a hankering for some guacamole, take your best recipe over to Little Mexican Café and have it made to order while you sip a margarita. I highly recommend it. And who am I? Just some Yelper yapping about food on the World Wide Web! Buen provecho!

Guacamole recipes from some El Paso friends:
Zac - Avocados, lime, garlic, red onion, tomato, salt, and pepper
Marina - Avocados, lime, garlic, red onion, tomato, jalapeno, salt, and pepper
Heriberto - Avocados, lime, garlic, red onion, tomato, jalapeno, cilantro, salt, and pepper
David - Avocados, lime, garlic, red onion, tomato, jalapeno, cottage cheese, salt, and pepper
Katie - Avocados, lime, salt, and pepper
Barry - 3 avocados, 2 roma tomatoes, juice from 1 lime, cilantro, salt, onion and one recipe called for cayenne pepper (this guy is a very new friend and he is NOT from El Paso, but I felt compelled to include him).


Thank you for reading my blog "Evanston Newbie", a project that I am using to chronicle my new life in Evanston since moving my family here from El Paso, TX, in 2011. Do you have favorite Evanston bakeries, bike shops, events that you can recommend? Send me an email at and I will post my review on this blog. -Lisa Degliantoni

Monday, August 27, 2012

Graffiti I Love in Evanston: SMILE

This was so great to see while I was walking around Evanston on Saturday in the muggy heat simply because at the time, I wasn't smiling. And when I saw this? I smiled!

For more photos of Graffiti I Love, enter graffiti in the search bar above.

And if you see any graffiti in Evanston that you think I might love, snap a pic and email it to me at


Thank you for reading my blog "Evanston Newbie", a project that I am using to chronicle my new life in Evanston since moving my family here from El Paso, TX, in 2011. Do you have favorite Evanston bakeries, bike shops, events that you can recommend? Send me an email at and I will post my review on this blog. -Lisa Degliantoni

Friday, August 24, 2012

Food News: Moe the sourdough starter turns 11! Bennison's Bakery celebrates with half off sourdough rounds all weekend!

In food news, starter turning 11 is pretty big! And Bennison's Bakery of Evanston is celebrating with a huge sale (1/2 off) and cupcakes this weekend!


In August of 2001, in Minneapolis, Minnesota Bennison's sourdough starter, Moe, was born. Flour and water were mixed together and left to gather natural, airborn yeast. Every day since, without fail, Moe has been fed a constant diet of unbleached, unbromated hard red winter wheat flour. Each day Moe goes to work producing the delicious sourdough bread with its classic tang that Bennison's custmers have come to love.

Come join the party August 24th, 25th, and 26th at Bennison's Bakery. We'll have half-price sourdough loaves and FREE mini cupcakes!

Bennison's is located at 1000 Davis Street in Evanston! See you there!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

This Saturday: Evanston's Lakefront Walking Tour

Saturday, August 25 at 11 a.m.

Discover the rich, varied history of Evanston’s lakefront, from lifesaving stations to shipwrecks, from boathouses to warehouses, from parks and private residences to piers, beaches, landscaping and more.

Tours begin at 11 a.m. and end at 12:30 p.m. All tours begin at the Evanston History Center, 225 Greenwood Street, Evanston. Admission is $20, $15 for EHC members.

More info: or call (847)475-3410.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Eddie Spaghetti the Meatballs are Ready Degliantoni is in the Hizouse!

This is a photo of my father Eddie Spaghetti the Meatballs are Ready Degliantoni in all his gloriousness in my backyard in Evanston. My mother and father are visiting for two weeks and we’re showing them Chicagoland for the first time. They’re from the Bay Area and they’ve never been to the Midwest. Be nice if you see them walking down the street please.

Let’s play a quick round of trivia. What’s in my dad’s glass? Nope, not apple juice, silly! That’s Jack Daniels on the rocks with a splash of water, his favorite drink.

And next to him on the picnic table is a leg of lamb from Costco, only the best. He’s sitting there waiting for the grill to warm up. That’s how I found him yesterday when I came home from work. That man looks happy and healthy for 75 and for being my father.

I am thrilled to have my parents in town so that I can show off my new city and life and apartment. Normally I see them about once or twice a year, for two weeks max. When I turned 18, I moved more than eight hours away and I’ve been moving farther and farther away ever since. My distance from my childhood home has little to do with how much or little I like my parents at the time and everything to do with my gypsy blood.

As I look at this photo I think about me at 75, cue the Beatles tune “When I’m 64”. Will I be in one of my son’s homes cooking them my amazing pasta sauce, sipping Prosseco? What will my relationship with my children look like in 35 years and where in the world will they be living? They better like me and I better have the money to visit them!

Both of my parents think Evanston and the North Shore are gorgeous and cannot believe how pretty it is. The trees! The huge houses! Lake Michigan! I’m so happy they like the area; it’s much more fun to hang with enthusiastic parents vs. worried parents.

When we were leaving El Paso last year, they were sad and nervous about our pending move to Chicago. “What about your great friends and the kid’s fantastic school?” they said. They brought up good questions and legitimate worries but we told them we had done our homework and everything would be just fine.

Yesterday they met several of our new friends (thank you Lori and Kate for being so darn friendly and nice) who gave them the perfect impression of the Midwestern temperament that makes me truly love people from this region. They also got to see the boys’ school and we very impressed by the lovely grounds and new building. All this and a huge scoop of Hartigan’s Ice Cream made them very excited for our new life and new home.

This is a photo of a happy man relaxing on a summer night in the backyard right before he grills a delicious leg of lamb. After this photo my husband, two kids and mom all joined my dad at the table and we had a fantastic dinner, outside in our backyard, in our new city of Evanston. I was way too busy eating Ed’s delicious leg of lamb to waste time taking a photo!


Thank you for reading my blog "Evanston Newbie", a project that I am using to chronicle my new life in Evanston since moving my family here from El Paso, TX, in 2011. Do you have favorite Evanston bakeries, bike shops, events that you can recommend? Send me an email at and I will post my review on this blog. -Lisa Degliantoni

Monday, August 20, 2012

Mom, this doesn’t feel like home.

After a three week vacation in Northern California staying with their grandparents, aunt, uncles and cousins, my boys return home today. This is the second summer in a row where “coming home” means coming to Evanston and not El Paso. Despite the year living here, I worry it still won’t feel like home because as the title of this blog notes, my boys frequently tell me “Mom, this doesn’t feel like home”.

Although I totally believe there is merit in NOT listening to MOST things children say, I find it hard to ignore them when they tell me that their new home doesn’t feel like "home". They can’t really back it up and give concrete reasons, both of them just say “I don’t know, but it doesn’t feel like home.”

I hear myself responding “well boys, home isn’t always a physical location. It can be a feeling or a smell or temperature. Don’t worry about recreating what you used to have in El Paso but instead working on creating what you want in Evanston.” This normally just gets me blank stares.

For parents who move children numerous times because of career demands how do they recreate new homes? It takes so long to make good friends; there must be a speedier way to create belonging. I really haven’t done the research on creating a new home and a sense of belonging because I wanted our experience to be organic. Other than talking in a friendly tone to every human I’ve come across in our new town over the last year, I’ve let my children pick their friends and how they make them. I’ve let them pick the park where they want to hang and their favorite restaurant. More than anything, I’ve just given them a love for walking and that’s how they’ve discovered their new city. I think they’ve done a great job creating their new home/life all on their own but…

Will they come home today and say, “This doesn’t feel like home?” I hope the banners and the fresh flowers and the bag of Chicago style popcorn and the cake (see above) make them feel like they’re home. I’ll let you know what happens.

Friday, August 17, 2012

How this blog landed me and my story on making friends after 40 in the pages of the New York Times!

This summer has been awesome! And I hope you are having an awesome summer too.

The months of July and August have been filled with vacations, visitors, a new apartment and a three week respite from parenting. I’m not making excuses for posting only three things in August on this blog, but I’ve been busy having fun this summer and much of the fun centers around falling farther in love with Evanston.

If anyone is looking for a city to relocate to, relocate to Evanston! Really. Upcoming blog entries to prove my love for Evanston include; “Evanston’s Walkability, what’s between me and the train I commute to work on”, “Lisa D. Food Wars – who makes better guacamole? Little Mexican Café or Café Diablo?” and “100 Reasons my parents are so happy for me and my family having moved to Evanston”.

As you know, I’ve been using the Evanston Newbie blog to track my family’s move to Evanston last summer. Blog topics include; discovering new stores, missing old friends, building new traditions, choosing a school, and especially making new friends and building a new social life.

No one likes to start over but I find starting over socially to be one of the most taxing projects of all – mainly because I am a very social creature, demand lots of love from friends and strangers alike and need to feel as though EVERYONE wants me at the party. So imagine the pain and anxiety I felt moving to a new city where I knew ONE person!

Adding to the anxiety was the message that everyone had been sending my way “don’t plan on making any new friends as no one makes friends after 40”. I was turning 40 only a year after moving to Evanston! Would I make no new friends? Would I be floating on an ice berg of isolation while people roamed the streets in laughing packs around me?

I found making new friends in Evanston not taxing or impossible at all! In fact, I found so many people who I really liked that I found myself dealing with the pressures of choosing who to like. But all around, it has socially been a really positive experience so of course I blogged about it and then Tweeted up my blog post – “40 Lessons Learned Moving from El Paso, TX to Evanston, IL.”

Several days later I received an email from a writer who was working on an article on making friends after the age of 40 asking if I would like to be interviewed for the article. Turning down the chance to talk about myself is NOT in my nature, so I said “yes” and even gave my cell.

Then the call came from Alex Williams of the New York Times Style section and I just about died! I really enjoy Williams’ work, always read him in the Sunday Times and couldn’t believe I was going to be a source for one of his stories. For a follow up to a previous article on “How to break up with friends” he was writing an article on the difficulties of making friends after 40. He saw my Tweet, read my blog and like a real journalist, reached out to me.

Of course after several phone calls and emails with Williams’ to discuss my experiences making friends after 40, I wasn’t 100% sure A. the article would run or B. I would make the cut as one of the sources. But when the call came from the New York Times photo editor to book a portrait session with photographer Sally Ryan, I was 75% sure they would use me.

Several weeks (more than 8) went by and nothing. I was hesitant to tell anyone about the chance that I might be in the Sunday New York Times (besides my poor husband) because what if it didn’t run? That would be awkward to brag and then be cut from the story.

About two weeks before the story was slotted to run, Williams’ called to say it would run in two weeks and that I would be in it for sure. Now the worry over the photo. What if it looked terrible what if it didn’t run at all? In two Sundays all my worries were over and the story ran with an awesome photo by Sally Ryan and a smart perspective by Alex Williams. More than 400 readers commented on the story and NPR did a news story on it.

That is how this blog landed me in the pages of the New York Times! Alex Williams, a journalist, was using Twitter to do research on a topic he was interested in and found me. It’s really that simple and that awesome. (My Twitter handle is @TheLisaDShow)

You can still believe in journalism and you can believe me when I say that making new friends is easy as long you continue to find people you like and by 40, we’ve met such a small amount of people on this planet, the odds are really in your favor!

Click here to read “Friends of a Certain Age. Why Is It Hard to Make Friends Over 30?” by Alex Williams.

Fact checking corrections; I am 40 not 39, I moved to Chicago from El Paso, TX, and I am a Project Manager for an educational fundraising office.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Graffiti I Love: Foxy

My super sleuth Man on the Street found this little gem in Evanston recently. Oh how I love graffiti that rocks!

Snap pics of your favorite graffiti and send it to so that I can include it on this blog.

Search "graffiti" in the field above and find all kinds of visually stimulating but not permanent graffiti around Evanston.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Right Now: FREE Smores Creations at Bennison's Bakery in Evanston

Come in, ask for Sam or Bragita and say "I'm goin' campin'" and while supplies last you'll get a FREE S'morejonz.

Then go back to Bennison's on August 10, National Smores Day, and buy one of these delights. OR buy 20 and become the MOST popular person at work.

Fan Bennison's Bakery right now on Facebook and show your love for their delicious treats!

Info: Friday, August 10th is National S'mores day. We will be celebrating by offering these S'morejonz, on the weekend of 10,11 & 12. Yeasted donut filled with chocolate custard, topped with toasted marshmallow, broken graham crackers and milk chocolate drizzle.

1000 Davis Street
Evanston, IL 60201
(847) 328-9434

Thursday, August 2, 2012

This Weekend in Evanston: Free Arts Festival

From the City of Evanston website:

Free Admission

Since 1973, the City of Evanston has presented the annual Evanston Lakeshore Arts Festival. The festival takes place the first weekend in August on Evanston's stunning, historic lakefront at Dawes Park, Sheridan Road at Church St.

The festival showcases live jazz and classical music, a silent art auction, and the popular Children's Craft Tent. The festival hosts a dozen restaurateurs serving a variety of culinary delights.

Free parking is available at the Northwestern University parking lot, three blocks north of festival site (look for the signs). A free shuttle bus runs non-stop between the parking lot and the festival site between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. Dawes Park's official address is 1700 Sheridan Road, Evanston. For more information, please call 847/448-8260.

The Evanston Lakeshore Arts Festival is presented by the City of Evanston’s Cultural Arts Division. This program is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency.

August 4-5, 2012: Saturday & Sunday; 11:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.